Monday Miscellany

  • What are the chances of this “remarkable piece of epidemiological luck” in studying PTSD? Researchers were looking for risk factors that might predispose someone to experience PTSD after a traumatic event, but obviously they couldn’t assign people to groups to receive a traumatic stimulus or a placebo. Then, 51 police officers helped recover 73 bodies after an oil rig disaster with responsibilities including “the stripping, washing, and photographing of recovered bodies.” But just before the disaster, someone had “assessed many of the officers in an occupational health study using standardized measures: the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) scale and the Eyesneck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ).” They even had data on officers not involved in the recovery efforts which they used as matched controls. That and much more in “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Persistent Diagnostic Challenge” (PDF) by Hamid Tavakoli.
  • Timur Kuran’s “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989” (PDF)
  • “We don’t know how to solve global poverty, and that’s a good thing”: London School of Economics lecture by Bill Easterly available as a podcast. Basically, a lot of bad things have happened in the past when we were certain we knew the solution to global poverty and implemented drastic solutions with authoritarian tactics.
  • The LA Times has a Q&A with Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl on Haiti, Baby Doc, cholera vaccine, and more. Here’s the last bit:

Q: Will the return of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier have any impact on the work you do and the reconstruction?

Farmer: I have no idea. It just seems to add more turmoil. I can’t see anything good that would come out of it unless there’s accounting for crimes.

Dahl: It doesn’t take a lot to mess with a fragile system. Finding ways to support democracy would be the most useful thing anybody can do. He doesn’t have a history of wanting to support democracy or not sabotage it.

I keep thinking about that famous photograph of Baby Doc, him and Michele Bennett driving out in that car, speeding out of Port Au Prince and she’s smoking like she’s going to a hair appointment. And that was so huge for Haiti. And I just didn’t think I would …

Farmer: Live to see it?

Dahl: No, I didn’t.

Q: How can a person living in Los Angeles without contacts in Haiti help?

Dahl: Doing a little bit of research into the organizations you’re giving your resources to. Don’t go down and dig pit latrines — Haitians need those jobs.

Farmer: Some of these camps, in Parc Jean-Marie Vincent, which is about 51,000 people in one little tiny space, they have 286 latrines. Plus, it’s dangerous for women to go to them at night. In Port Au Prince. The numbers are pretty scary. Like with vaccine production, can’t there be a much more ambitious endeavor? We keep talking about Depression-era interventions — WPA, Civilian Conservation Corps — that engaged millions of people otherwise idle in public good. Even if half the aid pledge gets in, imagine if that money could go towards creating jobs for people. … We’re all for moving capital back to Haiti — the way it’s done is what’s important. If you had to choose between conventional aid programs with a lot of use of contractors, lots of overhead, dumb trainings. If you had to choose between that and lots of money going into creating jobs for Haitians, we obviously vote for the latter. If you want to support good work in a place that’s troubled, you have to do some homework.

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